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New Research Confirmed That Past Experiences With Peer Adversity Can Predict Teenage Girls’ Self-Esteem And Sense Of Belonging, Paving The Way For New Intervention Programs

Skymba and Rudolph wanted to better understand this phenomenon and designed a study to observe trends among 89 girls who had an average age of 16-years-old.

The researchers’ goal was to analyze how early life experiences with peers might influence teen girls’ sensitivity to interrelational pressure during adolescent-hood.

In the study, each participant first began by rating how strongly they agreed with various statements that described a need for belonging and approval.

For instance, “I want other people to accept me,” and “Being liked by other kids makes me feel better about myself.”

At the same time, the teen girls also self-reported their own perceived levels of social belonging, self-esteem, and social control.

Afterward, all of the participants participated in a virtual ball-tossing game known as Cyberball. This game was designed to simulate peer exclusion in a safe way.

Each player was able to control an onscreen hand and was encouraged to play a game of catch first with computer-programmed avatars, then with other study participants.

During the first round, each teen was tossed the ball the same number of times. Then, in the second round, the participants were slowly excluded from the game.

At 15 and 35 minutes following the game’s end, each participant was asked to record the levels of social belonging, self-esteem, and social control that they experienced during the game.

For the final stage of the study, the researchers also documented each participant’s history of peer adversity– both past and recent. Then, third-party coders translated these histories into numeric rankings.

The goal was to measure the participants’ general interpersonal needs, in addition to how those needs may be threatened in the event of a live stressor.

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